The problem with Windows 8


In October later this year, Microsoft will release Windows 8. As always, they hope that a new version of Windows will give them, and their hardware partners, a sales boost. I’m sure many owners of computers running the venerable XP, the unloved Vista and the capable Windows 7 will be wondering, “Should I upgrade?” Microsoft will be doing its best to try and persuade you to.  Well, my advice to all of those owners would be no, don’t do it. However, if you want or need to buy a new computer, then do it before October and make sure it has Windows 7, not 8. For laptop and desktop computers, the new features and benefits of Windows 8 will be hidden behind serious ease of use issues. So why (in my opinion) has Microsoft produced such an obviously flawed product?


Quite simply, the answer is Apple Inc. (Apple dropped the suffix ‘Computer’ from their name years ago). Contrary to popular belief, Apple didn’t invent the tablet computer. It was Microsoft that championed the modern tablet and for years it had tried to sell touchscreen tablets made by partners with software designed for use with a keyboard and mouse – good old Windows XP and Vista in fact. Many of the available tablets back then still had a keyboard. They were like laptops with pivoting screens that could be closed with the screen facing outwards. But they were heavy and expensive and Microsoft just couldn’t get the recipe right, unlike Apple, who did so successfully with the iPad. Apple’s key ingredient was that it ran software designed from the ground up to be used with a touchscreen. Naturally that meant Apple’s tablet didn’t need a bulky keyboard either. It was a huge sales success and has contributed to falling laptop and desktop sales, curtailing Microsoft’s profits. So Microsoft are now smarting that Apple has succeeded where they failed. To make things worse, the iPad has also influenced the world of IT in areas such as software application development, traditionally a Microsoft strong point. Cue the alarm bells ringing at Microsoft.


So after sitting on the fence for two years, Microsoft now wants the tablet market back and this time it will even produce the hardware, called Surface, as well as the software, called Windows 8. For reasons that I can’t work out, Microsoft is trying to use the same software for computers and tablets, again. It’s the same mistake they made years ago with their tablets. Only this time it’s the computers that will suffer as Windows 8 has been tailored for touchscreen devices. That’s a huge gamble and after testing Windows 8 for several months now, I believe it’s also a huge mistake. It might be great on tablets, but it is frustrating to use on computers. Why don’t they simply use different software on tablets than they use on computers? Everyone else does it that way. I fear the answer is that the Microsoft Marketing Department will want to use the sales pitch for Windows 8 tablets, “You’ll find the same software on the latest computers”. This may calm potential tablet buyers nervous about buying a tablet that isn’t from Apple. The bad news for Microsoft though, is that nobody beats Apple at Marketing.


© Peter Johnston, ByteSupport Ltd  2012.